FWCC Triennial Report
Elenita Bales, Newberg Friends
These are some of the highlights of the FWCC Triennial for me:
Meeting and sharing with Quaker Brothers and Sisters from around the world: What a wonderful blessing to meet with 308 Quakers from 52 countries who represented all branches of Quakerism. I visited with many and was thankful for the openness and freedom to share our spiritual experience with each other. We visited around our dining tables, in the halls, during our “tea breaks”, and in after-hour sessions. Two of my roommates, one from Kenya and the other from Jamaica, helped me see my faith through another culture and I was moved by their experiences.
Experiencing the warm, loving hospitality and careful planning of our Irish Friends: Even though some of my NWYM friends had told me that I’d “love the Irish Friends”, I was delighted with their genuine, gracious friendliness and good humor. Their Young People were also friendly and helpful in getting us settled and “care-taking” all through the week.
The worship sessions “with the consent to do business” as our Clerk, Duduzile Mtshazo, opened each business session. Her warm spiritual sensitivity and discernment added much to the responses and considerations of the items for business.
Witnessing the vitality and contribution of the Young Friends and their growing gifts of leadership: This was my third attendance at a FWCC Gathering, the first being a Section of the Americas meeting in Guatemala last year. Many of the Young Friends who were there had attended the Young Friends Gathering in England the previous year and were still energized by that spiritual experience, wanting to share and be a part of the larger whole. They continue to attend in this Gathering, also, helped in the planning of the services and outreach and inspired us with their spiritual insights and maturity.
Hearing the variety of messages on the theme of the Gathering: The five messages brought during our sessions dealt with the theme of the prophetic vision for our time. All were challenging and inspiring, reminding us that though we might be reluctant “prophets” (Biblical ones were, too!) we were challenged to follow the Spirit’s leading and be faithful. I felt blessed by the spirit of openness and worship.
Sharing in our small Worship Groups: My daily small group worship with 14 people was a time of deeper sharing and very meaningful. Each member was from a different Yearly Meeting and country or state. Our leaders were a young woman from Australia and a man from Ohio. They led us through various spiritual exercises that helped us feel more at ease and ready to share our Spiritual testimonies. Some shared burdens, concerns, and prayer requests. A warm bond was formed among our members who came from such diverse backgrounds and experiences, yet became one in the Lord. One young Friend from the Philippines who is active in youth work, shared that his home had been destroyed in the flood that had occurred while we were at the Gathering, and an African Friend was burdened for the Friends whose homes and some loved ones were buried in huge mud slides. We spent time in prayer, lifting them up to God’s care. Scripture was shared and explored.
Being asked to be a part of the Pastoral Care Group: We met each day to pray for concerns that had been brought to our attention and to be available in the counseling/prayer room after a session, Three of our group would sit on the platform to hold the meeting and the participants in prayer throughout each session.
Interest and Working Groups: Sharing in the sense of mission and concerns to which various Quaker groups feel called: peace and justice, stewardship of the earth, and concerns for spiritual outreach.
Visiting the “Quaker Sites” and the Irish villages and countryside, getting a feel for the rich history: Irish Friends arranged a choice of tours on one of the days. I chose the country tour which included walking tours of Friends Villages, Meeting Houses, Burial Grounds, former homes, schools and various business enterprises. Within a year of George Fox’s Pendle Hill Experience, Quakers were settling in Ireland. It’s a blessing to see how the faithfulness of the Friends lives and message had such influence in so many lives, and we pray that their early spiritual fervor could also be the experience of our day.
Taking the Post-Gathering, Quaker Pilgrimage to Swarthmoor and 1652 Quaker Country in England: After the Triennial, four of us from our NWYM “team”, flew to Manchester, England , took the train to Ulverston, and walked the path to Swarthmoor Hall, the home of Judge and Margaret Fell, and the center of the early Quaker activity. Margaret Fell became an early Quaker “Convinced Friend” under the preaching of George Fox, and with the Judge’s approval, opened their home to the many traveling Quaker ministers and visitors. It was also a gathering place for worship for their large household and local Friends. There are six of the historical rooms of the original “Manor House” restored to their authentic appearance, and modern accommodations for current visitors. We spent four days there, touring the Meeting houses, villages, burial grounds, and historic Quaker sites mentioned in the journals and writings of early Friends. Pendle Hill was a physical challenge, but rewarding to see the full sweep of the countryside, and visualize George Fox’s vision of “a great people to be gathered”. We also visited Firbank Fell where he preached to over one thousand people, from which many ministers were called to spread out all over the British Isles, and on to other countries with Christ’s message, “There is One, even Christ Jesus who can speak to thy condition.”
I continue to thank God for the blessings that I received during this experience, and pray that our vision as Friends will be strengthened as we are faithful in living our faith and sharing it with others.
Elenita Bales, Newberg Friends Church